Take Control of the Wheel: 8 Tips to Overcome Driving Anxiety
While driving around town is a fairly uneventful activity most of the time, there are situations where you may feel anxious behind the wheel — especially if you recently experienced an accident, are still learning to drive, have a new car, or are somewhere unfamiliar.
While we at The News Wheel are certainly not medical authorities — and we recommend you see a specialist if you suffer from a debilitating phobia of driving — hopefully these coaching suggestions from experts like Choosing Therapy and the Hypnosis Motivation Institute will ease the tension you sometimes experience if you get nervous when behind the wheel.
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Control your anxiety while driving by trying these simple techniques
Practice breathing: Mastering deep, controlled breathing from the diaphragm will allow more air into your lungs when you begin to panic and will keep you from becoming lightheaded.
Reduce distractions/stressors: If your car is filled with garbage, aggressive music, talkative passengers, or unsettling engine noises, you’re going to become tense just by being in the car. Make your environment one that soothes — not compounds — your driving anxiety. Play peaceful music, de-clutter your car frequently, and drive with someone you trust.
Affirmations: Don’t let your thoughts get the better of you. Maintain control of your attitude by practicing positive self-talk. Avoid getting caught up in harmful inner dialogues and instead affirm that you’re in control behind the wheel. After all, you’re the one who chooses where the car goes.
Stay loose: Keep your body relaxed and learn to loosen up whenever you feel yourself becoming tense. Deliberately let your tightened muscles go limp and unwind. Just don’t take your hands off the steering wheel!
Write it out: List out what specifically scares you about driving and then confront the reasons you feel anxious. Perhaps there are some influences you can avoid or improve.
Improve the route: Avoid crowded or busy streets/highways, even if it means lengthening your commute. Drive in calm neighborhoods at slow speeds to avoid stressful situations; also avoid commuting during prime traffic hours.
Familiarize: Take time to sit in the car even if you’re not driving it anywhere. Becoming comfortable in your car reduces those feeling of panic you associate with the vehicle.
Other factors: Perhaps your anxiety around driving isn’t being caused by the driving itself, but rather by factors outside the car. For instance, you consume an excess of caffeine beforehand, don’t like the job you’re driving to, or don’t like the city you live in. Find ways to curb these stressors too. Maybe it’s time for a lifestyle change?
If these techniques don’t improve your experience behind the wheel, consult a medical specialist about more drastic solutions like therapy or medication.
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Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a Hyundai Veloster Turbo (which recently replaced his 1995 Saturn SC-2). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.